Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunay Snapshot is Getting Ready for a New Year

champagne gif
Visual approximation of current plans.

Currently reading:

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie: The first Miss Marple book. Not what I was expecting, but Richard Grant is doing a fantastic job narrating the audiobook.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid: Almost finished! Thank god.

Posted:

A reading list for those of us who want to get more vegetables and whole grains into our diet. Plus my 2017 Reading Round-Up.

Happy New Year!

I hope you all have a safe and fun New Year's Eve! I have a bottle of bubbly on ice and ambitious plans to crush the whole damn thing.

drink gif


Since it is that time of year, I've been thinking about my New Year's Resolutions. Last year my resolutions were to exercise more (how creative), pay off credit cards and save money, practice languages, and finish The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I totally failed on the last one, but marginally succeeded on the others. This year I'd like to:

Save money for Paris: According to Rick Steves, one should budget about $140 per day for a Paris vacation, not including the hotel room. This seems like a lot, but better to err on the side of overestimating I guess. Hopefully I'll get a tax refund (??? who really knows at this point) and that will help to fund the trip in addition to saving money.

Write more better: 2017 was not awesome for the writing career. I lost two of my regular clients and didn't have enough time to hustle for new clients to replace them. I think it's probably a good time to reevaluate and refocus and inject some new energy into writing.

Eat more plants: According to a documentary I watched on Netflix, a plant-based diet can cure everything from heart disease to dandruff. I know we all have to die of something, but I'd rather it not be dandruff.



Do you have any New Year Resolutions?

Happy New Year to all, and as the Germans say, Gl├╝ck soll uns das neue Jahr gestalten und wir bleiben hoffentlich die alten.

champagne in a shoe



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Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Year-End Wrap-Up

My top Instagram pics for 2017, featuring Sofie, an old Brownie camera, and lots of sunsets.


Oh 2017. You were exhausting. I've already shared my feelings on the year in general (apparently I'm so looking forward to a new year I labeled that post Christmas 2018 instead of '17), but I didn't have a chance to round up my year in reading. Until now!

The number of books I read in 2017 was honestly pathetic, by my standards anyway. I've only read 80 books so far. I may be able to bump that up to 81 before the year is out, but either way I've read less books this year than I've ever read since I started tracking my reading on Goodreads.

On the positive side, I did pretty well on my Around the World In Books challenge. I managed to read books by authors from 14 non-US countries, including Taiwan, Malay, and South Korea. In terms of numbers, the US made up the vast majority of my reading–no surprise there–with the UK and Japan (thanks, manga!) coming in a distant second and third.

Here are some memorable reading highlights and lowlights from the year:

act like it
Favorite romance: Act Like It by Lucy Parker

My review from Book Riot's January Round-Up:

There is literally nothing not to love about this romance. You’ve got London’s West End theater scene, a sweet-but-tough heroine, tons of trouble generated by larger-than-life characters in the supporting cast, and a hilariously grumpy-ass hero who makes “Mr. Darcy look like the poster child for low self-esteem.” The story is perfectly paced and even when they’re fighting–which they do for most of the first half of the book, and very entertainingly too–Richard and Lainie have incredible chemistry. I think what I adored most about this novel, though, was the peek into the world of the theater (“The theater, the theater, whatever happened to the theater” <–what plays in my head whenever someone says the word theater), with all its glamor and politics and fancy dresses and gossip and sexism. Very dramatic, and so much fun! A must-read for anyone who enjoys contemporary romance, imo.


pretty face
Biggest disappointment: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Well, they can't all be winners. Here is the review I wrote for Pretty Face here and then decided not to publish (although I did post a nicer version on Book Riot. Yes, that's me being nice):

Lily Lamprey is a television soap star, but what she really wants to do is work in the theater. Luc Savage's new play in London's West End is her big break, but should Lily risk her career and reputation on their mutual attraction?

I do not get the love for this book AT ALL. It basically exemplifies why I stopped buying romance novels last year: 1. it's not romantic; and 2. it's boring AF. I feel like it sucked five weeks out of my life and I only spent a week and a half reading it.

Here's the thing: Luc and Lily spend very little time together during the course of the book, and whenever they do manage to find themselves alone in a room together, they're immediately interrupted by someone's who's like, "I SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING HERE, HANKY PANKY!" So over the course of 150 pages, they do little more than hug, stare at each other, and get to first base. If they were *really* that attracted to one another, don't you think they would make more of an effort to actually, I don't know, be together?

All that wouldn't make me too grouchy if there was another plot to follow, but there's not. Luc and Lily are it. So instead of a romance novel, we get an endless series of scenes that do nothing to drive the narrative forward. Most of these scenes consist of people standing around and talking about Luc and Lily's relationship. What relationship? People assuming you're sleeping together is not a relationship!

Add to that some truly lazy descriptions and the fact that the potential for drama is wasted at every opportunity, and by the 60 percent mark I was getting pretty damn impatient and cranky with this pile of nothing. I can't believe I wasted so much time reading this book when I could have been reading literally anything else. If you do read this novel, please only read the scenes where Luc and Lily are together and then tell me how long it took to finish; I'd be interested to know.

miss tonks turns to crime
Favorite series: The Poor Relation by Marion Chesney

I read all six of these books in 2017, quite an accomplishment for someone who struggles to make it through series like myself. This charming series focuses on group of older poor relations in Regency England who decide to take matters into their own tentacles and open a hotel that caters to their wealthy families. Along the way there's romance, drama, and misadventure. These books aren't going to win any literary awards, but I loved the poor relation characters and how Chesney tied their stories together.

trust me
Most questionable cover: Trust Me by Laura Florand

From another grouchy review I wrote here but never published:

Let's start with the whitewashed cover, shall we? Trust Me's fearless heroine, Lina, is of Algerian/Syrian descent and is described as having golden skin dark enough to hide a blush and black, curly hair. Meanwhile, the woman on the cover doesn't even look vaguely Mediterranean. Out of curiosity, I Googled "Algerian women French" and got a bunch of pictures of women who were brown- to olive-skinned and absolutely gorgeous, including this photo of French-Algerian actress Sabrina Ouazani, who looks pretty close to how I was picturing Lina in my head:

Sabrina Ouazani

I just wonder why Florand decided to whitewash her own damn cover. It's bad enough when publishers do it, but Trust Me is self-published. Did Florand think the book wouldn't sell if there was a brown person on the cover? Maybe don't write about one either, then.

born a crime
Favorite non-fiction book: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Memoirs and I usually don't get along, but when Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show that he was "born a crime" in South Africa, I wanted to know more about his story. I'm so happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and read this book because it is ALL THE THINGS. Gut-busting hilarious, sad, poignant, thoughtful, and entertaining. Noah sure as fuck knows how to tell story, and I learned a lot about a country and culture about which I was more or less completely ignorant. Not just that, but what it means to be hungry, grow up in the hood, and be mixed race. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone.

malice
Biggest pleasant surprise: Malice by Keigo Higashino

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but it sucked me in from the word go and led me down a crazy-twisty rabbit hole. Maybe a little *too* twisty for belief right there at the end, but I sure as hell enjoyed the ride.

the lost book of the grail
Favorite mystery: The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

This book has everything: religion, faith, libraries, humor, romance, the legend of the Holy Grail, billionaires with questionable motives. Everything just works, even the stuff that usually annoys me.

the gentleman's guide to vice and virtue
Best overall (audiobook, historical, romance, adventure): The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

This book, you guys. THIS BOOK. Again, this is a book with everything: pirates, Versailles, Venice, alchemy, highway robbery, evil dukes, bluestockings, absolutely swoon-worthy romance. I wish I lived in this novel so that I could hang with Monty, Percy, and Felicity all the time. It's a romp, a romp I tells ye!

simple green suppers
Favorite cookbook: Simple Green Suppers by Susie Middleton

2017 was the year I got serious about eating more plants (TM), and this was the perfect book to help. The suppers are filling and satisfying, flexible, and delicious. I actually crave several of the recipes in here now, and I've never found myself saying that about vegetables before.



2017 by the numbers:

  • 80 books total
  • 45 of those books were by women (men are catching up! usually the percentage is usually closer to 60/40)
  • A little more than 1/4th of the books I read were romance (or at least had a romantic subplot)
  • Only 16 books were mysteries
  • As for classics, those took a nosedive: I only read 1 classic this year
  • According to Goodreads, the most popular book I read this year was Graceling by Kristin Cashore, a book I don't even remember reading. Go home Goodreads, you're drunk.



How was your year in reading? Any favorites?




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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday Snapshot for Christmas 2018


Currently reading:

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge by Charlie Lovett: You can tell Lovett is fanboying Dickens here.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid: I'll admit when I first started this book I thought it was pretty dumb. But then Reid threw in a twist and she got me hooked.

Posted:

A list of favorite mystery romance novels that you need to read like RN.

Movies:

the last jedi poster
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, starring all the people from the previous Star Wars movie

Star Warrrrrs, Starrrr Warrrrs! This movie was about at the same level as Attack of the Clones for me, except the visuals were much better. I liked it and I'm happy I saw it, but I don't think I'll have the patience to watch it again. It was wayyyy tooooo loooooong. Also the lengthy exposition and copy/paste quotes from previous Star Wars movies bugged me.

On the plus side, I was relieved Kylo Ren and Rey didn't hook up. Despite the gratuitous shirtless scene. lol

My mom has also been forcing me to watch romantic Christmas movies on Netflix. In order of bearableness:

the spirit of christmas
The Spirit of Christmas, starring Jen Lilley and Thomas Beaudoin

Surprisingly romantic, considering the hero is dead. Every Christmas, Daniel reanimates for 12 days and haunts the B&B he owned before he was murrrrdered. This causes problems for Kate, a lawyer who's hired to liquidate the estate. I loved the super grumpy ghost and Beaudoin ain't hard on the eyes either.

a christmas prince
A Christmas Prince, starring Rose McIver and Ben Lamb

Basically Prince Harry fanfic. It kind of reminds me of The Prince & Me, in that I'm aware it is a terrible movie and yet I still watch it.

christmas inheritance
Christmas Inheritance, starring Eliza Taylor and Jake Lacey

The major weakness of this one is the hero. He is not physically attractive AT ALL. There are also continuity issues that make me think intelligence was not applied to this script (how is whipped cream a reasonable replacement for clotted cream? Would you put clotted cream in your coffee?). But it was okay.

dear santa
Dear Santa, starring Amy Acker, Emma Duke, and David Haydn-Jones

This movie offended every feminist sensibility I possess. Plus it doesn't even make sense. You're going to marry a guy just because his daughter wants him to??? No. Look at your life, look at your choices.

This month in heidenkindom:

The past few weeks have been pretty rough. My grandfather died the week before last and his funeral was just two days ago. So it's not the merriest of Christmases around here. To say the least. Writing Christmas cards becomes officially awful when you have to tell people a family member has passed away. Especially when you have to do it in German. This isn't the worst year I've ever had, but I'm more than ready to bid 2017 adieu.

Hopefully you all are having a better holiday season than I am. May the new year bring better things for all of us! See you on the flip side.





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